San Francisco supervisor looks to shrink plastic water bottle availability 

click to enlarge A young girl stands on a surfboard as she poses for a photo inside a 14-foot wave made of plastic bottles on March 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California. - JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES
  • Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • A young girl stands on a surfboard as she poses for a photo inside a 14-foot wave made of plastic bottles on March 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California.

In an attempt to wean residents and visitors off waste-producing single-use plastic water bottles, they could be banned from certain events and businesses.

Eliminating these bottles is something San Francisco city officials have grappled with for years. Nationwide, more municipalities are adopting tougher restrictions on sales. And at the beginning of the year, Concord, Mass., went so far as to enact an outright ban.

In San Francisco, the plastic water bottle remains prevalent, from park vendors to street festivals.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu would like to change that. He is expected to introduce a finalized version of legislation banning the bottles in certain cases when the board returns from its summer recess in early September.

A draft was circulated last week to members of the Commission on the Environment for feedback.

As it stands, the legislation would do three main things: ban vendors on city property and in government buildings from selling plastic water bottles, except those at San Francisco International Airport and sporting events; ban new food trucks from selling them; and ban them at events such as street festivals with more than 1,000 attendees. However, if the event is free the bottles could be sold there if there is not an adequate source of potable water.

It also would make law a 2007 mayoral executive directive ordering city departments to cease spending money on bottled water.

Currently the legislation defines single-use water bottles as holding 16 fluid ounces or less. The size remains under debate.

"I would be willing to tolerate the bigger bottles because they are not single-use bottles for some period of time until we got people used to the notion that they should be bringing their own bottles to these kinds of events," said Environment Commissioner Johanna Wald.

Other commissioners expressed the need to lower the attendance number to capture private events at City Hall where refreshments often include single-use plastic bottles.

The impact of the legislation could be significant judging by the results of a refillable-bottle program at the annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park. The program, in place since 2009, has reduced water bottle consumption by two-thirds, according to information from Chiu's office.

And in 2012, attendees consumed 1,680 reusable 5-gallon water jugs, which is comparable to 10,752 20-ounce plastic water bottles.

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